Sports books in awe at World Cup ardor

Chuck Esposito knew the World Cup would be popular in Las Vegas sports books thanks to the favorable starting times in Brazil and quiet period in the sports calendar.

But Esposito, the race and sports book director at Sunset Station, didn’t think there would be this much interest.

“It clearly surpassed my expectations. The crowds, the atmosphere, the hype, the buzz … it’s just been phenomenal,” Esposito said Thursday. “It’s a shame that it only happens every four years because it’s great for our sports books, I think great for the industry, and it’s going to be exciting with the countries that are left.”

The World Cup, which resumes today with two quarterfinal matches, has enjoyed unprecedented popularity this summer as TV ratings for the U.S. team’s matches against Portugal and Belgium surpassed those for the NBA Finals and World Series.

Local sports books also have benefited with bettors eager to get in on the action.

“I checked early on, and we were on pace to basically be about 2½ times the handle we did in 2010,” LVH oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said.

This World Cup has been one of the most exciting in the modern era and could surpass the 1998 edition in France as the highest-scoring of all time. Bettors took advantage of the glut of goals early before the books bounced back the past two weeks, according to Esposito and Sherman.

“The first set of group-stage games, the public did very well because it came in at a high majority of favorites and overs,” Sherman said. “We started out doing poorly in those games. The second set of group-stage games, it kind of turned and we had some key games that were important results for us, like when Germany tied Ghana.

“We’re basically, at this point, right around where we should be. It’s just that we started out in a deficit right away.”

Brazil (5-2) remains the favorite at the LVH to win the World Cup, with Argentina, Germany and the Netherlands all listed at 4-1. France, which entered the tournament at 25-1, has impressed through four matches and is down to 8-1.

European rivals France and Germany square off at 9 a.m. today in the first quarterfinal, and the match is listed as a pick ’em at the LVH with the Germans a minus-140 favorite to advance. In Friday’s other match, host Brazil (-½, minus-120) faces Colombia, which arguably has been the best team in the tournament and features breakout star James Rodriguez.

The U.S. and Mexico were eliminated in the round of 16, but neither Esposito nor Sherman expects interest to drop significantly as a result.

The LVH has posted several prop bets, including odds on the correct score and the popular yes/no bet on whether an individual player will score. Esposito said Station’s books will add more props before the semifinals.

“You’ve still got seven of the top nine countries playing, so it’s going to be exciting for sure,” Esposito said. “We’re driven by locals at our property, but this is still an international city. ... If you can’t be in Brazil, I don’t think there’s a better place to be than any of our sports books in Vegas.”

Contact reporter David Schoen at or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.


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